Reputation Management

What Is Reputation Management?

Reputation management is a delicate area in digital marketing that relies heavily on SEO. The best way I can explain what it is and why it may be needed involves some ugly examples I’ve seen with people I know.

Example #1 – a Dentist

As a teenager, I attended early morning seminary like every other Mormon kid in town. The seminary teacher was one of the adults from a local congregation who also happened to be a dentist. He was well respected in the community and within church social circles.

Fast forward a few years. I’ve moved away from that small town, but I stay in touch with friends. One day- the news was crazy.  My former seminary teacher, the well-respected dentist, was all over the local news. There were allegations he was groping women and making inappropriate comments about their breast augmentation. Like many scandals, it started small, but once it hit the local newspaper, more and more women came out and joined in.

Allegations of misconduct are terrible, but it gets worse.  I say this because I’ve casually observed many sex scandals in the media over the years. Around the same time, Arnold Schwarzenegger was having similar groping issues come up as he was running for governor of California. I don’t recall the specifics of Arnold’s case, but I think it was clear there were inappropriate actions.  Issues settled rather quietly out of court [I believe]. Overall- Hollywood understands a thing or two about reputation management, and with a political campaign underway, I’m sure a small army was involved in managing the reputation The Terminator quickly.  Arnold went on to hang up his role as Terminator in exchange for The Governator and appears to have served several terms in public service before returning to his career as an actor. All these years later, few people care or remember his groping allegations.

My old seminary teacher, unlike Schwarzenegger, did NOT settle out of court. From the news stories, it would appear he became belligerent. He seemed to acknowledge some of the behavior but justified it by saying he was treating his dental patients for TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Disorder through chest massages.  Strangely, there were no news reports of men being treated by this dentist for TMJ through chest massages.  As the events escalated, more and more women came forward to testify in court. The dentist became more and more adamant that he was providing a valuable service to his female patients. He even had his brother who was a massage therapist coaching him on how to treat TMJ.

The whole while, he continued to stand behind the TMJ defense.  In the end, his license to practice dentistry was revoked as his treatments appeared to be out of line with general dentistry.  Perhaps he and his brother stumbled across a revolutionary treatment for TMJ, but there was a pretty long list of women willing to testify against him.  In court, it became clear the service he was providing was not in line with expectations of a dental visit and the location and degree of massaging was not consensual. Oh- he also went to prison for a few years.

These events happened years ago.  It turns out this dentist is no longer in prison.  He’s back in practice, and things seem to be going well, except when you Google him.  There are still these pages that surface that would indicate there was some inappropriate behavior several years back.

Example #2 – an Old Friend Lost

In the early `90’s I lived in Florida for a few years.  I had an older friend I met that I stayed in contact with over the years.  Over time we both moved to various parts of the country, but we kept in touch. One day I was in Denver visiting one of my brothers, and I called him up since I knew he was now in that area. We hung out for an evening. I brought in a stack of CD-Rs with music burned on them to show him something I was listening to at the time  [we didn’t have iPods and smartphones back then].  When it was time to leave, I forgot my stack of CDs.  I didn’t think much of it because they were all burned CDRs.  I had the wav files on my computer and burned more CD’s once I got home.

Several years later, I’m living in Dallas. With the disruptions of a move, new job, new everything- I lost contact for a while. One day I called my old friend up. He sounded nervous. He wasn’t his usual jovial self. As we were talking on the phone, I could hear him rummaging through a bunch of stuff. He sounded rushed. As we were talking, he mentioned he found my stack of burned CD’s and asked if there was anything I needed in the stack.  I replied no- toss them. I heard them in the background hitting the inside of a trash can as my friend continued to rummage through stuff.

That was the last time I ever talked with that friend!

Over the next several months, every time I tried to call him, I just got his voice mail. One day his phone was cut off as well as his cell phone. I was frustrated.  He was always available in the past when I needed someone to talk to. He had helped me stay grounded and calm through some tough moments in life. He was a real friend. I started googling him to see if there was a new phone number I could find.

I didn’t find a phone number.

I found news reports indicating he was in prison for molesting his nephew. Ughhh. That was a sick moment. How do you deal with knowing a good friend, someone who had been so helpful in my life over the years could be capable of something so vile. It was horrifying, and yet, I wished I could have had one last conversation. I cannot support or condone what he did. I believe his prison time was well earned. I could never leave my children alone around him EVER… but I also cannot change the many good things he did to help me out over the years. Incredible inner turmoil.

I’ve tried to contact this old friend several times over the years. I have no respect or desire to justify what he did to earn his prison time, but he was a friend. Whenever I Google him… all the news reports and court hearings still plaster page 1 of a Google search. His career as a corporate lawyer is over. It would be impossible to get past an initial interview with all of the sordid reports showing up on page 1 of a Google search by a prospective employer.

As an SEO, could I remove his history? No, he will forever remain on the sexual predator list. He will have to register where he lives every time he moves. I wouldn’t even try to erase that, but I know if he found the right agency and had a good enough story to go along with the fat retainer, that a lot of the negative stories could be buried back to page 2 or 3 of search.  

Examples 1 & 2 Are Pretty Extreme, What Would You Do?

The previous examples are extreme.  I know what would need to be done to “fix” the first two pages of search results. Would I fix them? Well- that’s why reputation management is such a delicate area of digital marketing and SEO. If I believe the issues that caused the reputation mess are still going to be a problem, I cannot and will not fight it. Better to let the search results stay as they are. With more famous individuals where you go beyond a local paper and headlines show up everywhere across the nation.  It’s impossible to fight in the early stages; you’ll need to ride it out and hope that in time people forget and move on to the next news crisis.  Once the world has moved on, then you can start to salvage search results.  

With the previous examples, I’m not even sure I would sign up to fix the reputations, but I would at least sit down and have a conversation and hear their case out to determine if it’s appropriate and possible to restore their online reputation.

What If My Problems Aren’t as Bad as Your Examples

Most of the cases we run across for reputation management aren’t as severe as the examples I’ve given. Most of the time, it’s a business with adverse reports filed against them or other negative reviews. In these cases, it’s still a delicate matter. Was it just an ornery customer that hates everything about life that only targetted them that day? Is there a pattern of complaints from customers of the business? If there is a constant stream of complaints, no agency can overcome that.  Before we can restore online reputation, you must resolve behaviors.  Period!!!

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, reputation management is a delicate topic. We’ll do our best to treat you with dignity as we determine if reputation management is appropriate for your circumstances.

If this is something you are in need of, go to the client discovery form and check off reputation management as the service you’re seeking and complete the online form. We’ll do some initial research and get back to you with a phone call or personal meeting if you’re close by.